WEEK 6 POWER RANKINGS

Week 6 NBA Power Rankings

Recently, my power rankings would include the ranked list with a short paragraph for each of the top 10 teams. For the next few rankings I am going to include the ranked list, but at the end of the list I will have a longer write up on 2 teams. This teams will be chosen at random each week. This way I will be able to include a write up on each team in the NBA at least once. 

In addition to this change I am also going to include a new tier based ranking.

  1. Golden State Warriors (12-6) – Previous Rank – 1
  2. Toronto Raptors (13-4) – Previous Rank – 2
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (11-4) – Previous Rank – 3
  4. Boston Celtics (9-7) – Previous Rank – 6
  5. Houston Rockets (8-7) – Previous Rank – 7
  6. Portland Trailblazers (11-5) – Previous Rank – 4
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5) – Previous Rank – 9
  8. Denver Nuggets (10-6) – Previous Rank – 5
  9. Philadelphia 76ers (11-7) – Previous Rank – 10
  10. Indiana Pacers (10-6) – Previous Rank – 11
  11. New Orleans Pelicans (9-7) – Previous Rank 13
  12. Los Angeles Lakers (9-7) – Previous Rank 14
  13. Los Angeles Clippers (10-5) – Previous Rank 15
  14. San Antonio Spurs (8-7) – Previous Rank 8
  15. Memphis Grizzlies (10-5) – Previous Rank 16
  16. Utah Jazz (8-8) – Previous Rank – 12
  17. Detroit Pistons (7-6) – Previous Rank – 18
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-10) – Previous Rank 20
  19. Charlotte Hornets (7-8) – Previous Rank 17
  20. Miami Heat (6-10) – Previous Rank 19
  21. Sacramento Kings (8-8) – Previous Rank 23
  22. Orlando Magic (9-8) – Previous Rank 24
  23. Washington Wizards (5-11) – Previous Rank 22
  24. Dallas Mavericks (7-8) – Previous Rank 25
  25. Brooklyn Nets (7-10) – Previous Rank 21
  26. New York Knicks (4-13) – Previous Rank 27
  27. Chicago Bulls (4-13) – Previous Rank 28
  28. Phoenix Suns (3-12) – Previous Rank 26
  29. Atlanta Hawks (3-13) – Previous Rank 29
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-12) – Previous Rank 30

Western Conference – Minnesota Timberwolves – (Week 6 Rank – 18)

Free at last!! Free at last!! With the Jimmy Butler drama out of the way now the Wolves can focus on playing basketball. It is hard to argue that the loss of Jimmy Butler will be conducive to winning more basketball games than last season, but I am convinced that the subtraction of his drama filled stay will clear up a lot of behind the scenes distractions. 

With all that said let’s look at some Jimmy/Wolves related stats. With Jimmy Butler this season the Wolves are 3-7. Without Jimmy The Wolves are 5-3. Since the Jimmy Butler trade on November 10 the Wolves are 3-1. This sets the Wolves at 7-10 overall on the season.

Now, the question to ask is if the Timberwolves are the competitive 47 win team they were last season? Or are they the young and growing 31 win team from 2016? My answer is that they probably fall somewhere in between. The Wolves have been on fire from 3 so far this season. Covington in his first 3 games has shot over 50% from 3. On the season Wiggins and Towns, who are below 40% in their careers, have shot over 40% from 3. Although, it is possible Wiggins has taken a step forward and finishes the year above or at 40% from 3. This team will surely welcome that. 

The downfall of this team is its defense. Currently they are giving up 114.1 points per game to opposing teams. Only 6 other teams are doing a worse job of giving up points. However, there is a bright spot within this statistic. In their last 3 games they have given up only 98.7 points to opposing teams (Blazers, Pelicans, Grizzlies). That is 3rd best in the NBA in the last 3 games. After a clear downward trend starting this summer for the Wolves, fans can finally find some things to be hopeful about. 

My current projections for this team would be 40 wins and ending the year around 11th or 12th in the West. The additions of Covington and Saric provide 2 solid roles players and much needed defensive help in Covington. In the end this is still a young team who probably needs 1 more solid piece to be in real contention for a playoff spot. 

 

Eastern Conference – Boston Celtics – (Week 6 Rank – 4)

As I had written last week, the Celtics are still finding their new identity. They have pretty much the same roster as last season, but are a completely different team. Hayward and Kyrie’s injuries and the emergence of Tatum, Brown, and Rozier have all had their separate impacts on how this team is going to operate. 

How much of the Celtic’s slow start to the season should we allow to shape what we think of this team long term? Will they play like a 9-7 team rest of season? Is this start a total fluke and will they easily handle the East like many would have thought entering the season? Well, let’s try to answer these questions. 

First, I really think it’s obvious this team isn’t truly a 9-7 team. The first sign of this is Gordon Hayward. Incorporating Hayward hasn’t exactly been good for winning games. Gordon is shooting under 40% from 2 and under 30% from 3 through 15 games played. He’s also logging over 25 minutes a night. When you have a guy getting 25 minutes plus a night who is taking 12 shots and only hitting them similarly to a rate of players like Mario Hezonja and Cameron Payne then you’re going to have negative results.

Second, similar to Hayward’s struggles are Jaylen Brown’s. Jaylen isn’t coming off a major injury but his efficiency has been way down as if he was. Last season Brown emerged as one of their primary scorers. At the end of the year he averaged over 14 points and shot over 46% from the field. This season Brown is averaging the same amount of shot attempts (11.5), but he is only hitting on 36% of them. 

These 2 problems are not the only problems the Celtics have encountered this season, but to save time they’re the only ones we’ll extensively highlight here. When you add things up Boston is bringing back 2 starters from injuries. They have 2 players taking a combined 23 shots and shooting a career low percentage on those attempts. Boston had also been scheduled 9 road games in their first 13 games of the season. This isn’t easy for any team, but especially when you’re trying to help your young guys figure out their new roles and re-incorporate your injured stars into the roles they expect.

(Other problems they’ve faced include, but are not limited to, Kyrie’s early struggles in the first few games, plain bad luck on a 5 game road trip, averaging the 7th least ppg as a team.) 

I think a lot of these issues will be cleared up and fixed over time. Brad Stevens and the Celtics coaching staff are always making quality decisions. I’m not as high on Boston as I was to start the season. Toronto looks like a legitimate threat and Philadelphia adding Butler will make things interesting as well. My pre-season prediction for Boston was 60 wins and while I still think that team exists I am going to hedge against this a little. My new prediction for this team is 57 wins and I’m still predicting them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Week 6 Tiers

Tier 1

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Milwaukee Bucks

Really this tier should be just Golden State. Fortunately, for the rest of the league, they can’t get along. Oh… and Steph hasn’t been playing. 

Tier 2 

  • Boston Celtics
  • Houston Rockets

Both these teams have had slow starts and realistically could end up being in the top 3 teams in the NBA by the end of the season.

Tier 3

  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Los Angeles Lakers

Tier 4

  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Utah Jazz

This tier is really interesting to me. I could easily see the Jazz jumping at least 1 or maybe 2 tiers very soon or by the all star break. I could also see LA and Memphis bottoming out if just 1 thing goes wrong.

Tier 5 

  • Detroit Pistons
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat

All 4 of these teams should have playoff aspirations. If it wasn’t for the weakness of the east I would say all 4 won’t be meeting those aspirations. 

Tier 6

  • Sacramento Kings
  • Orlando Magic
  • Washington Wizards

This is really a strange group of teams. I can’t tell if Orlando’s good start is a fluke like last season. I assume the Kings will start to tank soon, and I am so disappointed the Wizards are in the same tier as both of these teams..

Tier 7

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Brooklyn Nets

The Mavericks may be my favorite “bad team” to watch right now. Pretty much because of Luka and DSJ. 

Tier 8

  • New York Knicks
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavlaliers

I wrestled with whether or not I should put the Suns, Hawks, and Cavs in a tier of their own, but… 8 is a more round and solid number than 9. Either way 4 of these 5 teams have no shot headlining the bottom tiers for the 2018-19 campaign.

SEASON RECAP: PART 2 – “BREAKING” NEWS

If you had told the Boston Celtics that they would be holding the 2 seed with over 50 wins this season after losing Gordon Hayward on the first game of the season they may have had you checked for a concussion. The buzz around the the Celtics this off season once they landed Kyrie and Gordon would have had you thinking they changed their name to the “Hornets”.

I remember clearly on October 17 rushing through my work day so I could get home and prepare for the season opener. Not only was this the first time we as basketball fans would get to see Gordon Hayward reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens. We would also see Kyrie in Cleveland against the team he just abandoned. Whoever was in charge of making this season’s NBA schedule needed a huuuuge raise.

The beginning of this game felt like I was falling in love with the NBA all over again. The drama. The skill. Everything that makes the NBA great could be found in this game. With just under 8 minutes Jaylen Brown made his opening statement for why we need to pay close attention to how good he was going to be. All was right. My mouth was watering and it wasn’t because of the food I could smell my wife cooking. This season was going to be the best of my life.

And then.. with about 6 minutes and 52 seconds left in the first quarter. Kyrie had a beautiful lob set up for Hayward. This play was going to be a spark. It would ignite a bond and a union between 2 players that were destined to be perfect fits in a perfect system led by a perfect coach. This would be the play that brings everything together. Lebron’s reign in the east was being challenged. Or so we thought.

As Kyrie lobs a pass to the rim. Gordon makes a quick fake one way and heads to grab the ball just thrown in the air by Kyrie. If you watch the replay you can actually see Lebron prepared to disrupt this play before Kyrie has even geared up to make the pass. His instincts are remarkable. Unfortunately, in the process of breaking up this play Gordon comes down awkwardly on his foot.

As soon as Hayward came down the announcer knew what had happened. You could hear the shock in his voice as he claimed that “Hayward broke his leg”. Instead of this alley-oop being the play that claimed the throne, it was the one that potentially destroyed it. The game was so hyped and now it just felt as if no one wanted to even be there. The  picture after the incident posted above captures well the mood for that evening.

Despite this tragic event the Celtics knew they still had 81 games left to play. It wouldn’t be easy. The next night was their home opener against Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo came to town and didn’t share many condolences. The Greek Freak posted 37 points and began his MVP campaign.

The season started much worse than they ever expected. The C’s have obviously come quite a ways since then. After starting 0-2 they went on a 16 game winning streak. Since then we have learned that Jayson Tatum definitely was Ainge’s top pick in this year’s draft and rightfully so. Jaylen Brown also had much more room to spread his wings.

Now, the Celtics are entering the first round not only without Hayward but also without Kyrie. Is it doom and gloom all over again? Should we really count this team out? It seems that they take punch after punch but somehow manage to put things together and pull out a W. If anyone knows how to win it’s the Boston Celtics.